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NY Board Removes Vax Mandate for Court Workers, Requires Those Unvaxxed Rehired 

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By:  Ilana Siyance

New York State’s Public Employment Relations Board has finally tossed the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for court employees.  The new ruling adds that employees who were fired for refusing to be vaccinated must now be rehired, and paid back with interest for time lost.

As reported by the NY Post, the decision issued towards the end of February, says the Unified Court System must immediately “cease and desist” from enforcing policies that require all non-judicial employees to be vaccinated or undergo regular testing.  Also, any fired employee “who lost accrued leave, compensation or employment” will have to be made “whole,” with interest paid “at the maximum legal rate,” the decision states.

The ruling will affect at minimum some 25 court officers who were fired for refusing to comply with vax mandates, said Dennis Quirk, president of the NYS Court Officers Association, which is one of the 10 unions which had challenged the mandate.  Quirk added that roughly 200 court workers were either fired, resigned or retired.  Though he personally said he favors the COVID-19 vaccine, Quirk noted on Sunday that the PERB ruling is a “landmark decision.”  “You can’t violate an individual’s right to choose. We live in America, not Russia,” he said.

Court officials “are reviewing the decision” and considering whether to appeal, UCS spokesman Lucian Chalfen commented.  It’s still unclear if other NY state and city government agencies will follow suit, rehiring unvaccinated employees and paying them back.  As per the Post, over 70 former of Big Apple employees, including from the NYPD, FDNY, Department of Education, Department of Health have filed a $250 million lawsuit against the city, seeking to similarly overturn the vaccine mandate and get their jobs back now that the pandemic is mostly behind us.  A spokesperson for Mayor Eric Adams commented saying this ruling for courts won’t apply to city employees because it was “based on a different set of facts and laws”.  “There have been rulings on the city’s mandate that specifically find this type of relief is not necessary or warranted,”” the mayor’s spokesperson added.

Last week, NYC Mayor Adams also finally dropped the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for municipal employees.  However, he announced that the roughly 1,800 people who were fired for their refusal to comply would need to reapply for their jobs and would not be receiving any back pay.

The vaccine mandate had been imposed by former state Court of Appeals Chief Judge Janet DiFiore, who resigned in July while reportedly facing an ethics probe stemming from her public clash with Quirk over the vaccine mandate.  As of January, Politicians across the board have declared the pandemic is over, including President Biden, Gov. Kathy Hochul, and Sen. Chuck Schumer, per the Post.  As of Friday, the “community levels” of COVID-19 were low throughout NYC and the metro area, as per online data published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Throughout the country, about 82% of counties had low levels of COVID-19, with the remaining percentage reporting moderate or high levels, as per the CDC.

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